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12 Nov 2014

Ask a Mexican: How Can I Learn More About Latin and Mexican Music?

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Dear Mexican: I’m interested in a job that says it is a plus to have an understanding of Latin, Spanish and Mexican music. I found out names of musical styles such as Tejano, norteño, mariachi, banda, cumbia, merengue, flamenco and so on.

I’m wondering if there is a way to form a “good ear” for the different styles of music, and, if I’m asked, a way to learn how to explain the different styles of music on a structural basis—and know something about the artists in the different genres. I know they have introduction books and CD programs for classical and jazz, but was wondering if there was a similar one for Latin music—or some similar learning method. Can ya help a gabacho out here?

Also: Will this kind of knowledge give me an “in” with the Latin ladies, or does that just come with salsa-dancing?

Gabacho Who Seeketh Knowledge

Dear Gabacho: True story: An amigo of mine once texted me that he was going to a Romeo Santos concert and wanted to know who he was. I immediately texted back that he was going to chichis heaven: There would probably be 14,999 shrieking women—all of them 10s—to see the bachata superstar, and he’d be the only straight male. He replied that he wished he knew that information beforehand, because he had taken a date to the concert: “A 10,” he wrote, “but I’m surrounded by 12s!”

For the last time, men: Women in general love to dance, but it’s a requirement to love music if you want to bed a mexicana. You need to learn the slow groove of a cumbia, the flips of salsa, the hip-shaking beauty of meringue. You’ll need to know a proper waltz or polka to be able to dance to norteño and banda sinaloense—and all of it will lead to choni-melting abilities.

I’m not going to direct you, Seeketh Knowledge, to any books or CDs to learn Latin music’s many grooves, but rather urge you to become a quinceañera crasher—cute second cousins for días!


This week marks the 10-year anniversary of this infernal columna—10 pinche years already! The Mexican is not much for retrospectives—that’s a gabacho thing—but I do want to take a moment to offer thanks to a couple of cabrones: former OC Weekly editor Will Swaim, for giving me the idea for the column; Vice Media chingón Daniel Hernández, for writing the Los Angeles Times profile that changed my life; Scribner, for printing ¡Ask a Mexican! in best-selling book form; mi chula esposa, for all her support and pickling my peppers (and that is not a metaphor); Tom Leykis, for hosting a call-in-version of ¡Ask a Mexican! all these years (subscribe to his podcast at; all the haters, whose vile words remind me why I started writing this in the primera place; my friends and familia, for the obvious reasons; and the Albuquerque Alibi, for being the first newspaper besides my home periódico to have the huevos to run the column. Lastly but not leastly: ustedes gentle readers, whose eternal curiosity about Mexicans makes this weekly rant an eternally rollicking bit of DESMADRE. To the next decade or 50!

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

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